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Wiley Wandering

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“If” You Are So Inclined

One of my favorite poems is by the man who wrote the Jungle Book. His name is Rudyard Kipling and the poem is titled “If.” I was challenged to learn the poem when I pledged my fraternity (it was mandatory), Alpha Phi Alpha. However, I had learned the poem much earlier when my big sister was assigned to memorize it as an eighth grader (I was a fifth grader then). My mother would be testing her, and every time she stumbled on a passage, I would provide the answer to get her goat since she used to pummel me simply for exercise. It was the only way I could get retribution (or what Jim Dynko would prefer me to say “payback”).

This poem is currently on my son’s door where it hangs as a challenge to him. “If“ he memorizes a full verse, he will be rewarded with money going towards some large gift he has had his eye on. That being said, since I have a blog, I want to share with my blog crew the one poem that completely blew my mind and is probably the one complete thought that I call upon more than any other. From time to time I will drop a verse until the entire poem has been revealed and unpacked by those inclined to do so (though some of you will be impatient and google it, I'm sure). So, here is the first verse:

If you can keep your head when all about you
are losing theirs and blaming it on you.
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowances for their doubting too.
If you can wait, and not be tired by waiting,
or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
or being hated, don't give way to hating,
and yet don't look too good nor talk to wise;

What is the thought that jumps out at you immediately from this stanza? What are your different takes on this poem? What are your thoughts on it being the poem someone would attempt to challenge their child with?


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The first four lines make me want to halt, wait until the line behind me is done running into my back and say, "That's all I'm trying to do. So please respect that and I'll return the favor with a grin."
I'd have to read the rest of the poem to determine how valuable the lesson would be, but I'm stealing the idea of a reward, possibly monetary, for memorizing parts and eventually all of the poem. I've gotta start using that with my daughter.

*** Steve, are you deliberately attempting to be cryptic, or did you have a difficult time putting down the new Pomegranite Fusion Smirnoff? Inquiring minds would like to know? And as you should already know, I will expect my financial kick back if your daughter actually starts to drop some of the poem. But you don't hear me though! -- J.W. ***

"If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, but make allowances for their doubting too.", is a philosophy I'd like to live by! To me it says, be confident, even courageous, but not arrogant. Be self assurred, but embrace thoughtful critique. Having known you sense your youth Professor Wiley, you've taken Kipling to heart!

*** AZ, what up my man! Welcome to Wanderland! Kipling was my first guru! I know you thought you taught me the essence of playing a defensive back; how to shut down a wide receiver in single man coverage, but honestly, NOT!!! Oops, there I go being arrogant! Seriously though, Kipling's assertion of "trusting" when others doubt you is huge, but even more so, the part about truly considering their doubting of you. Many of us do the first part; trusting ourselves beyond other's doubt, but never stop to ask ourselves the tougher question: Is there any validity in their doubting me? Oh yes, I truly feel Kipling!!! *** -- J.W. ***

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